Grand Theft IV/Mass Effect

My reviews of 360 games are tainted by the fact I’m playing on a 27in standard def TV that ain’t so hot to start with. I’ve decided to try buying an adapter so I can plug my 360 into my 24in LCD. But in the meantime…

The last GTA game I really got into was Vice City, back on the PS2 (Tim’s Play Station 2, back when I was sharing a house with two colleagues from Demon in 2000-2002). San Andreas felt claustrophobic to me, not because it wasn’t huge but because the camera angles just didn’t give me the same sense of situational awareness.

I had fairly high hopes for GTA IV, and graphically its quite pretty. As yet, though, it just hasn’t caught me.

The animations seem remarkably stunted. There are wonderful moments of flowing elegance and then there are sharp and unpleasant transitions. I realize walking is the lesser mode of transport but even so, they could have made sure that most of the time walking is graceful.

That said, there’s a whole lot of new stuff in 4. There’s a whole bunch of cell phone stuff that is clearly going to be fun. They also integrated a whole bunch of the mini-game stuff, making it part of your building reputation with “friend”s. There’s also a sort of dating sub-game. When I took my date, Michelle, to a bar and got wasted, the resulting drunken swagger drew a genuine belly laugh, which redoubled when I saw the name of the unlocked achievement :)

The streets look ever more realistic, and I can see I’m going to be spending a whole lot of time on foot exploring the wonderful city layout in addition to cruising around.

It seems that the developers wanted to make the game more challenging this time around: fighting seems a lot harder and the poor s.o.bs seem to drop a lot less cash etc. I have yet to see anything that was clearly a jump or a ramp. There are cops almost everywhere and in the 4 or 5 hours I played today I’ve had to load games a bunch of times after getting nabbed by the cops; it might just be that it’s taking me my sweet time to learn the streets so I can’t make my escape as easily as in previous playing sessions, or it might just be that the cops drive smarter. I can’t decide.

I also seem to be continually fighting the camera, especially when walking.

The cars all handle a little more like racing sims than they have in previous versions, although there’s still that bit of a sense of point and go, just more or less responsive depending on the vehicle.

Right now, though, I honestly can’t decide if I am enjoying the game or not. I might try the Live Gold subscription and try hooking up in “Free” mode with a friend, that does sound kinda cool, if I can get the hang of the city a little better. The pacing of the storyline might be a factor, not really giving you chance to settle in and look around, just as you start exploring one of the storyline characters calls you and suddenly you’re on a time-limited activity that you feel you shouldn’t miss because you don’t want to screw up the tutorial phase.

I’m fairly sure that the lion’s share of my problem is just that my TV sucks. I know, I’ve been saying that forever. I finally took a tape measure to the TV and discovered that it’s not a 37in, it’s actually a 27in, which makes upgrading a whole heck of a lot more afforable. So I might get myself a nice LCD somewhere in the 37-42in range this week.

I also got Mass Effect this week, and I’ve played a couple of hours of that; I can see I will probably get along quite well with that game but … it feels a hell of a lot like they were making KOTOR3 but didn’t get a license from Lucas and rebadged it. Biotics = Force, Renegade = Dark Side. There’s the robot alien that has to state the emotional content of what it’s about to say. And the ships/views all have that familiar, KOTOR look to them — that I don’t really mind.

Again, I keep being dragged out of immersion by jarring animation transitions, although I get the feeling those are DVD accesss related, which brings me to a real annoyance of mine: I didn’t buy a 360 with a hard drive so I’d have 20gb of save game space, or lots of space to download cheapo games onto. I’d thought the drive would be usable by games to bolster the limited amount of RAM. Of course, Microsoft don’t want people being discouraged from buying the lesser unit so … they put a crimp in that.

I can’t help but think I should have waited for Mass Effect to come out on the PC; I’ll try it again when I get the new TV because I imagine it’s gonna look sweet, but I don’t see myself playing it on the 360 that much.

10 Comments

Tuure Laurinolli May 4, 2008 at 8:10 am

Unfortunately 20 GB save game space isn’t realized with GTA 4 at least – there are 12 save game slots plus auto save slot even with HD. Of course I’m not too sure how useful more savegame slots would be, as you still can’t save whenever you’d like to, which makes a large number of savegames largely pointless.

I think I found eight stunt jump ramps on the first island, plus some that weren’t. Too bad I don’t remember where most of them are, since you can’t add your own markings on the map.

I could probably think of some more things to complain about, but on the whole the game is very well made.

Bah GTA has been all downhill since GTA 1.

With the idea of instances for WW2OL, you could make GTA: Antwerp. The city area is surly big enough.

I have to disagree when it comes to fighting being harder, if you take some time to learn how it works it’s not only easier but a lot more fun.

Run, slide, cover.

Half press LB while crouched to aim while walking.
If you use the cover system you have a lot more control than the previous games.

Dude, I have really no idea what your talking about. I have never played a game with animations that look as fluid and realistic as GTAIV. The fighting isn’t harder, in fact with the cover system it’s quite a bit easier. Cops are EASY to lose, even with 3 stars, and as for Mass Effect… I still don’t know what your talking about. The animations aren’t as good as GTAIV, but they are good…. and it probably should feel like KOTOR, considering the people who made it is the ones who developed ME :)

Gotta go with a lot of the other guys on this one.

GTA storyline is actually pretty decent. And except for a few cut off’s the story seems pretty fluid and it makes sense. I find myself actually getting into the story quite a bit instead of just playing the game to kill shit. I might actually finish this one.

Also the fighting system. I don’t think you could get much easier than what it is in GTA. Lock onto target, lb for cover and then shoot. You can free aim or you can use the auto aim to stand out of cover and shoot. Cops seem hard to lose in a street chase, when you get caught up in something. Otherwise they are pretty easy. One mission we even have to have a little street race, which oddly felt like NFS.

get PS3 KFS1 :D

do see what you mean with animations though, they are superb but not perfect, running/walking down stairs is my biggest gripe.

but then again every game has its little bad things like that.

Dsty – Xbox or PS3?

There are some superb sequences of animation – like some of the cabaret acts. But then there are animations in cut-scenes where things suddenly snap or twist in a way that I find jarring; there is the weird-ass way that he leans when walking, and there are a bunch of disconnects between blends in most walking scenarios.

In Mass Effect, there are tons of little animation “warp”s in the cut-scene segments; and there are a bunch of situations where there doesn’t seem to be a transition blend. The easiest one to spot is when you are running and you let go of the controllers (to stop). There is a discrete animation for coming to a stop, that is completely unlinked to the running animation. So unless you time it perfectly, you always see this sharp transition from the two animation sequences.

In GTA it stands out for me mostly because, by and large, there is such a vast library of perfectly sweet animations; the little omissions leap out to me.

ME also suffers from a tendency to over-react for NPCs. Team members often snap to a new stance or posture rather than animating. It suffers from self-clipping – the Volus rae pretty horrible for it – and terrible self-shadowing – there was one scene where a character was standing infront of me, z-fighting hair-shadow on his face but no self-shadow on the ground.

And one of the games – or possibly both – suffers from a lack of “step” animations for turning.

As to combat, I’m talking about mele combat, and I’m gonna stick by my use of the word “harder” but I’ll conceed “more challenging”. More so than I expected of GTA, at least in Vice City it seemed pretty trivial to be a mindless bat wielding thug. Maybe I’ll get the hang of it, but the combat system seems to be gun oriented.

I’d definitely disagree that losing the cops is easier by default, it’s that C word again – challenging, but it’s the kind of challenge you definitely want from GTA :) The car chases in GTA IV are absolutely a winner :)

Konev: Yep, absolutely. I’m by no means condeming either game; infact, incase anyone missed it, I’m largely bitching that I have these two gorgeous games and nothing but a shitty standard-def 27in TV which has been fading on the right hand side for a while.

Although I’ve not actually played GTA4 I’ve spent some time watching my son play incessantly over the past week.

We have a Sony high def LCD and the game looks superb.

However, what strikes me is the humour in the game. Some of the ‘adverts’ on the radio are hilarious and are a satire on the ‘American way of life’, but much of it’s a complete urine take.

X-box or PS? I’d go for PS, not that i have the time to play it with this game! I did have a 360, but i flogged it to some pikeys at a car bott sale cos it was burning my dvds, and not in a good way. Thankyou Pikeys :D

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